Illegal Trapping on Our Rivers

This special bulletin from The Jonah Center’s Barry Chernoff is posted as a public service.

Citizen’s Alert to Protect Wildlife in the Floating Meadows – from Barry Chernoff

Update on trapping (July 14, 08)

14 July 2008  Dear Friends:  I wish to correct a serious error of fact that I have inadvertently spread through our community.  It has to  do with the legality of trapping snapper turtles in CT for private consumption or sales.  Last, year my research team and I encountered unmarked home-made turtle traps in the lower  Mattabesset River.  The traps contained large snapping turtles and one had a raccoon.  After freeing the  animals by cutting open the traps, I contacted the CT DEP law enforcement division.  They told me that  those trapping activities were illegal and they assigned a case number to the case.  I know that an  enforcement officer visited the area and he may have removed some of the traps.  At the end of Saturday’s Jonah-Center river trip, some colleagues and I discovered two unmarked homemade turtle traps in the Coginchaug downstream of the riffle below the Johnson St. Cemetery.  One had  a snapping turtle in it and I walked up the slough, cut the trap open and released the turtle.  This morning, I called the CT DEP to report the incident and received a very clear and different  message.  That it is legal in CT to trap snapping turtles with no limits on size or number whether for  private or commercial use.  I spoke with individuals in law enforcement and in wildlife.  They could not  explain why the message I received last year was different.  I am looking into the efficacy of the lack of restrictions on snapping turtles.  The snapping turtle is  known to live more than 40 years in the wild , much longer in captivity, and breeding begins after 7  years of age (2646 days).  Can the trapping pressure exerted on snappers in the Mattabesset and  Coginchaug drive them to extirpation?  As top predators and scavengers, they have an important role to  play in the ecology of rivers and wetlands. Whether Middletown or Cromwell can take further action to  protect the ecosystem of the lower Coginchaug and Mattabesset rivers is open to question (for example,  a town can decide whether or not to allow taking of wildlife within its boundaries).  In any case, I apologize for spreading false information.  If you spot turtle traps, I, again, urge caution  both because these homemade traps are not designed for the turtles or other creatures to exit alive and  because the owners of the traps may take exception to have having their traps handled.  Sincerely,    Barry Chernoff

I am asking for any of us who are kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing or otherwise recreating in the Lower Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers to be on the lookout for illegal traps and to report any sightings to the CT Department of Environmental Protection (860-842-4357).

When we were doing our monthly fish census on Wednesday, 22 August, we spotted two illegal traps. The traps are about 3 feet by 4 feet and made out of wire mesh, baited with fish. They were placed near the mouths of slews that enter the river. We found one trap just below where the Coginchaug joins the Mattabesset and the other on the south side one river bend below the house boat.One of the traps had a raccoon in it, which somehow escaped before we returned to free it.The other had two 20-25 lb snapping turtles that we freed.

Do not attempt to handle the traps or release any wildlife that you see in a trap. Trapped wildlife is dangerous, even if you are acting in a friendly fashion. These illegal traps are not designed to allow one to easily remove a live animal. Although the poachers who set these traps usually run their traps during the early morning or at night, poachers are not to be taken lightly or interacted with in a cavalier fashion. They are almost always armed. If you see the traps or someone setting the traps, just note the time and location and call the CT DEP (860-842-4357) to report. Based upon my report the DEP has opened a case and has assigned a conservation officer to investigate.

If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to contact me (

Thanks for your help

Barry Chernoff\floatingMedows1%2Ejpg

New additions today on our Middletown and Military & Veterans pages.

Tags:illegal trapping,coginchaug river,mattabesset river,connecticut river,ct census,jonah center for earth and art

3 Responses to “Illegal Trapping on Our Rivers”

  1. Recycling is Rubbish? « ConservaCity Says:

    […] Recycling is Rubbish? So says Professor Kunihiko Takeda… Recycling is rubbish: It eats more energy and creates more waste than burning our garbage in high-tech incinerators. The most efficient way of getting rid of garbage is burning it all together. Why? Because in raw garbage, plastics turn into their own fuel so you don’t need to add anything else. Aluminum and steel should be recycled, though, as we need less energy for that than to produce them from scratch. (emphasis added) Update on trapping of turtles in our rivers: Note from Barry Chernoff […]

  2. lvn600 Says:

    Interesting suff.-What do people do with snapping turtles after they catch them? I certainly wouldn’t eat one that was caught out of that aea.-I know they are cleaning it up some but still-no thanks to that.-That would actually be a good thing if we didn’t have to recycle all that plastic but how do you prevent the are from being polluted when you burn garbage.-Are there filters that work well enough to prevent air pollution?

  3. steadyjohn Says:

    This little bit of advice may answer your concern about the cleanliness of turtle meat:

    “Prior to killing and cleaning a snapping turtle it is a good idea to keep it in a tub of clean water for a period of time. Change the water every few days until it remains relatively clear. This usually takes one to two weeks. We suggest being somewhat selective about where you obtain snapping turtles. Although they often live in sewage lagoons and other sites with low dissolved oxygen, those used for eating should come from clean ponds and streams.”

    As to pollutants generated by burning plastics I don’t have an answer. I hope that the good professor may have a solution!

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